The Wedding of Prince Konstantin of Bavaria, son of Prince Adalbert of Bavaria and Countess Auguste von Seefried auf Buttenheim, and Princess Maria Adelgunde of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (wearing the Hohenzollern Clover Coronet), daughter of Prince Friedrich von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Princess Margarete Karola of Saxony, at Schloss Sigmaringen on this day in 1942, in what has been described as “the biggest society event during the war”. The couple had two sons, Prince Leopold and Prince Adalbert, before divorcing in 1948.
In her Berlin Diaries, Princess Marie Illarionovna Vassiltchikov records her recollections of the Wedding:
“I had rung up Konstantin of Bavaria and they had sent a man to the station to help carry my bags. We walked up to the castle, which stands perched on top of a rock in the very middle of the little town, all roofs, gables and turrets like one of those gingerbread castles in German fairy tales. We entered a lift at the bottom of the rock and were taken up about ten floors.
A housekeeper showed me to my room and brought me some boiled eggs and a peach. I took a hasty bath and then jumped into bed, hoping to get a little sleep while the family was at Mass in the castle chapel. But the organ played so loudly that I couldn’t close my eyes, so instead I sat up reading the guest list, which seems to include millions of Hohenzollems and Wittelsbachs, most of them well advanced in age.”
At noon I got up and dressed and upon opening my door caught sight of Konstantih tying his tie; his room is just opposite mine. We had a cosy chat, after which he took me along endless corridors, upstairs, downstairs, upstairs again and eventually into the so-called ‘children’s wing’ to meet his bride (whom I do not yet know). Young men looking like little archdukes in picture books – very slim, fair and well-mannered – kept popping up from all sides to be introduced: brothers and cousins of the bride. Thus escorted, we reached her sitting-room. From there we trooped down to one of the drawing-rooms, where the two families were assembled. On the way we met the bride’s mother, my hostess, who seemed both surprised and relieved that I had made it in good time after all. The house guests include Louis-Ferdinand of Prussia and his Russian wife Kira, the ex-reigning house of Saxony au complet, Didi Tolstoy (who is a distant cousin of ours) and his half-brother and sister, Georgie and Leila Mecklenburg, the Hassells, the Schnitzlers, the Rumanian Minister Bossy and the Max Fiirstenbergs.
We settled down to lunch at little tables in the so-called Ancestors’ Hall. I sat next to Bobby Hohenzollem, who is the eldest son of our host’s twin brother. A young soldier of twenty-one, very fair-haired, blue-eyed, effusive and touching, he has not left my side since. Our table included Konstantin’s brother Sasha, very shy and ‘proper’, who looks the spitting image of Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria in his youth (which is hardly surprising, since he is his great-great-grandson).
A Prince Albrecht of Hohenzollem, who is serving as liaison officer with the Rumanian army, spoke to me .at length about the Crimea, where he had just been. He had visited Aloupka, Gaspra and various other former family homes there and had found them in perfect condition. He was full of admiration for the Russians and especially for their women, who, he says, show amazing courage, dignity and fortitude. It is nice to hear this!
After lunch we strolled about the roof terraces and then Bobby took me for a running tour of the castle, which seems to have as many cellars and attics as it has rooms. With people popping out of every door, the place looks like a gigantic hotel, run most efficiently by a multitude of menservants in very smart liveries covered with decorations, and teeming with guests, whom I am gradually getting to know. A pretty extraordinary atmosphere considering the times we live in! . .. Our host, Prince Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and his twin brother Franz-Josef have each three sons, of whom four are more or less grown-up; the other two, looking very sweet in Eton collars, will be the bride’s train-bearers. They spend their time guiding me to and from my room. ‘You need only ring up the children’s floor and ask for us and we will be down in a jiffy to fetch you!’ Something I do often, as I keep losing myself.
We then went to have a look at the wedding presents. After tea we, the younger generation, seized our bathing things and rushed down through the town and across several fields to the Danube, which in these parts is still quite narrow, with the water barely reaching one’s shoulders. The Duke Luitpold in Bavaria (as distinct from the royal house of Bavaria) – an elderly sportsman, who is the ‘last of his name’ – was already there; we lay in the grass chatting with him until it was time to rush back to change for dinner.
There followed a mad struggle for the bathroom (of which there is only one on our floor). As we dressed, the men kept popping in to have us help them with their ties or powder their freshly-shaven chins – all very family-like and gemiitlich. At last we got Konstantin on his way and were able to finish our own preparations. We found the older generation already assembled in one of the drawing-rooms, the ladies covered with jewels, most of the men in uniforms, some of them of unfamiliar pre-World War I vintage, and all sparkling with decorations. The host’s brother wore that of an Admiral; Louis-Ferdinand of Prussia that of a Luftwaffe officer with the yellow ribbon of the Order of the Black Eagle. They all looked very impressive!
At a given signal we paired up with our appointed escorts and marched solemnly into the dining-halls: the bridal couple, their immediate families and the ‘notables’ being seated at a long table in the Ancestors’ Hall; the rest of us at small tables in the neighbouring King’s Hall. I sat between Bobby’s brother Meinrad and Ambassador von Hassell. In the middle of dinner Louis-Ferdinand got up and made a speech on behalf of his father, the Kronprinz. He spoke of the close ties that had always bound the two houses of Hohenzollem – that of the North and that of the South – and, turning to the youngsters in our room, he said that ‘all these glowing young people’ were a living guarantee that the Southern branch would continue to prosper as the Northern one had done.
After supper we assembled in yet another room to hear the local church choir serenade the bridal couple. While this went on, most of the guests slipped away. I stayed, as they sang very well and I found it all very moving. Konstantin made a short speech of thanks and then we, the younger generation, made for another, more distant hall to dance (although, because of the war, our hosts had forbidden this). But we retired early, as tomorrow, the Big Day, will be long and tiring.
The Wedding Day
“Konstantin of Bavaria awakened me at seven and then went off to confess and take communion. After a hasty breakfast we rushed back upstairs to put on our hats. We were wearing short dresses, I my green one with a very pretty hat. The men wore a white tie or uniforms, with all their decorations and ribbons. At 10 a.m. on the dot we started off, again in pairs, I myself arm-in-arm with Didi Tolstoy. Slowly and solemnly the procession, the guests first, the bridal party and their immediate families last, wound its way out of the castle, across the many courtyards, down the wide ramp, through the town and into the church. The whole neighbourhood seemed to line the streets to watch, as had a score of photographers and newsreel cameramen. The ceremony lasted almost two hours, owing to an endless address by the officiating bishop, devoted essentially to extolling the Christian virtues of past generations of the two families. Then a telegram from Pope Pius XII was read out and this was followed by a very beautiful High Mass with good singing and Bach’s Toccata. When it was over, we started back to the castle, this time in reversed order – the bridal party and families first, the guests last – and now the photographing and filming began in earnest. I, too, broke ranks and took quite a few snapshots.
When we arrived back at the castle we found the main reception rooms crowded with people gathered to congratulate the newly-weds, each room being allotted to a given group according to their position, i.e. the local officials in one, the staff in another, the outside guests in a third and we, the house guests, in a fourth. Luncheon, a veritable banquet, was served in the so-called Portuguese Room (named after its magnificent wall tapestries). The food was delicious, starting with crab cocktail and vol-au-vents filled with caviar, and the wines out of this world. I sat between Franzi Seefried (a cousin of Konstantin) and Bossy, the latter in full gold-braided diplomatic regalia, his plumed hat under his chair. “The bride’s father made a speech; this was answered by Konstantin’s father, Prince Adalbert of Bavaria (who has a charming voice and a very simple manner) and then the eldest son of the house, aged eighteen, got up and said: ‘We, the young ones, will always stand by you [meaning his sister] even though you are no longer one of us!’ and he went on to read the dozens of telegrams. Then the signing of the individual menus started and of course mine got stuck half-way round (I retrieved and completed it later). It is scribbled all over with names such as ‘Bobby’, ‘Fritzi’, ‘Sasha’, ‘Willy’, ‘Uncle Albert’, etc. And then comes, in rather childish writing, a huge solitary ‘Hohenzollem’. This turned out to be the youngest brother of the bride, aged nine!
After lunch we tore off for a swim. Supper was again at the small tables, but this time in short dresses and without the newlyweds, who had already taken off for a brief honeymoon on the Worthersee. I retired early, dead tired.”